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Clinton's Remarks at the Climate and Clean Air Coalition To Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Initiative, February 2012

Speaker: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Published February 16, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave these remarks on February 16, 2012 at the launch of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.

SECRETARY CLINTON:Well, welcome to the State Department, to the Benjamin Franklin Room. Benjamin Franklin was not only our first diplomat, but our first great scientist. So I think he would be particularly pleased that we would be holding such an important gathering here today while he looks down on us, urging us to move forward and to take action.

It's a very big honor for me to have you here for the purpose of launching the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, our new global effort to fight climate change, protect health, improve agricultural productivity, and strengthen energy security.

I'm very pleased to welcome my friend and colleague Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the environmental ministers from Bangladesh, Canada, Mexico, and Sweden; the ambassador from Ghana; Achim Steiner, the executive director of the UN Environment Program; other ambassadors and representatives from NGOs and the private sector.

The range of countries, organizations, and industries gathered in this room today reflects the weight of scientific research showing that climate change is one of the most serious and complex problems facing our world. We know its impacts. It impacts global security, the global economy, global food and water supplies, and the health and well-being of people everywhere. And we know that in the principal effort necessary to reduce the effects of carbon dioxide, the world has not yet done enough. So when we discover effective and affordable ways to reduce global warming – not just a little, but by a lot – it is a call to action.

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition will spread practical ideas and practices regarding so-called short-lived pollutants, which remain in the atmosphere only for a short time – pollutants such as methane, black carbon or soot, hydrofluorocarbons. In the past few years, we've learned that this group contributes much more to climate change than we previously realized. More than one-third of current global warming is caused by short-lived pollutants. They also destroy millions of tons of crops every year and wreak havoc on people's health. Millions die annually from constantly breathing in black carbon soot that comes from cookstoves in their own homes, from diesel cars and trucks on their roads, from the open burning of agricultural waste in their fields. Furthermore, methane – a greenhouse gas more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide –can also be an abundant source of energy if we capture it instead of just venting it into the air or flaring it.

By focusing on these pollutants – how to reduce them and, where possible, use them for energy – we can have local and regional effects that people can see and feel. They can see those effects and become convinced that this commitment is one we all must all undertake. There will be better health, cleaner air, more productive crops, more energy – in addition to less warming. The UN Environment Program has determined that reducing these pollutants can slow global warming by up to a half degree Celsius by 2050. To put that into context, the world's goal is to limit the rise in global temperature to two degrees. So a half a degree, or 25 percent, is significant.

Now, exceptional work has already been done to investigate how to reduce these pollutants. For example, UNEP has identified a package of 16 major actions, which include replacing inefficient cookstoves and traditional brick kilns with more efficient ones to cut down on black carbon, stopping the burning of agricultural waste, harvesting coal mine methane, improving wastewater treatment, and adopting emissions standards on vehicles.

Now, every one of the actions has already been applied somewhere, and so we know they work. Every one is based on existing technology, and fully half of them are considered low-cost interventions. So when you put all these factors together, they add up to an important opportunity that we cannot miss.

This coalition – the first international effort of its kind – will conduct a targeted, practical, and highly energetic global campaign to spread solutions to the short-lived pollutants worldwide. It will mobilize resources, assemble political support, help countries develop and implement a national action plan, raise public awareness, and reach out to other countries, companies, NGOs and foundations.

Now, we have every hope that we will see results soon, both on the ground and in the atmosphere. One of the benefits of focusing on pollutants that are short-lived is, if we can reduce them significantly, we will have a noticeable effect on our climate in relatively short order.

I am pleased to announce that our foundation partners are committing more than $15 million to get the coalition up and running. And the United States is proud to commit $12 million of new funding to this effort, in addition to the $10 million in annual support already provided to each of two existing efforts: the Global Methane Initiative and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves that I had the honor of announcing in 2010.

Now, this project holds a lot of promise, especially in the context of our larger battle against climate change. Now we know, of course, that this effort is not the answer to the climate crisis. There is no way to effectively address climate change without reducing carbon dioxide, the most dangerous, prevalent, and persistent greenhouse gas. It stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. So this coalition is intended to complement – not supplant – the other actions we are, and must be, taking.

Now to that end, the Obama Administration has been acting aggressively across the board. The Administration adopted fuel efficiency standards that will double the fuel economy of our cars and trucks. We're making a big push to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings, a major source of carbon emissions, as well to improve standards for home appliances. We've nearly doubled how much electricity we generate from renewable sources. And looking ahead, we will be focusing on the goal of putting a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 and pursuing President Obama's call for a clean energy standard to slash carbon emissions while building domestic and export markets for clean energy technology.

The nations represented here today have made strong progress, and I'm pleased that the international community took steps in the right direction at the climate conference in Durban. It followed up both on previous agreements to establish a transparency regime, a green climate fund, and a technology center and network, and also helped to lay the groundwork for negotiations for a new legal agreement that applies to all parties.

So we're working on many fronts individually, through the international track, in smaller, voluntary coalitions like this one. But we are excited today, because we think that today's announcement – if we do everything we want to do and intend to do – will be looked back on in years to come as a real turning point in the fight against the effects of climate change across our globe.

I have the great honor of introducing someone who's done a tremendous job, who understands what's at stake and has never faltered in making it clear that we have to keep moving forward. Please welcome EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. (Applause.)

ADMINISTRATOR JACKSON: This is such an inspiring room, just to look out at so many people who recognize the importance of this moment. And let me return the favor. I was sitting as the Secretary was talking about this initiative and talking about the Global Methane Initiative and talking about the cookstoves initiatives, and thinking this bears your mark, which is a connection of extraordinarily big problems back to people. And maybe that's going to be – we have to come up with a verb. I guess we'll Hillaryize all these issues, but – (laughter) – thank you so much for your leadership and your friendship, Madam Secretary. And to all my colleagues, it's good to see all the environment ministers gathered here, and of course, our ambassador from Ghana and my friend Dr. Steiner from the UN, Todd Stern for all his work with his staff.

And I'm really happy to spend just a few minutes to tell you about why it's important, why this coalition is so important. And I know I speak for my colleagues at EPA when I say how proud we are to be here at this moment and be part of this effort. We are so excited about the potential to do great things for our environment, but also for our health, and also for our economy, especially in communities where environmental and economic actions are most needed.

As the name of this coalition implies, our focus is to address pollution that accelerates climate change, and our work together will be an important part of the urgent effort to target that challenge and protect our planet. But taking on short-lived climate pollutants like soot or methane and hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, also gives us a chance to make changes that will benefit the health of millions of people. The efforts of this group can save the lives of people around the world who feel the respiratory effects of soot and other harmful pollutants. We also expect to see benefits for local and global economies, as well as opportunities to strengthen energy independence, both at home and abroad.

This coalition allows us to build on efforts that are already in place. For example, we've worked through voluntarily – voluntary partnerships like the SmartWay Partnership and the National Clean Diesel Campaign here at home to help make engines on our roads cleaner. At the same time, EPA's National Clean Diesel Campaign has awarded over $500 million in funding to more than 500 projects with well over 50,000 vehicles already retrofitted, replaced, or repowered since 2008. And between 2005 and 2030, our regulatory efforts for new engines will help cut black carbon emissions by 86 percent.

EPA is also a proud member of the Global Methane Initiative. Our agency has committed nearly $60 million to help fund methane reduction projects in 18 countries. Since 2005, these projects have promoted reductions equal to the carbon emissions from the annual energy use of more than 11 million homes. EPA is also taking action to reduce HFCs through our Significant New Alternatives Policy, or SNAP program, that evaluates more environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional ozone-depleting substances. We're glad to be bringing those and other efforts to the table.

But I want to close by saying how especially proud I am to be part of an effort that will positively impact the health of women and children around the globe – the groups that often bear the greatest burden of soot pollution and the products of dirty burning fuels. We've made progress, working under the leadership of Secretary Clinton, on addressing this issue. But we know how much more work there is to be done. So not only am I glad that this coalition will help address women and children's health, but I'm glad that it is an essential part of its mission. I'm very hopeful that as we are reducing the health burdens on women, we will capitalize on increasing the involvement of those women and their daughters in the issues of health and environmental protection around the world. I'd like to see this effort fueled by women scientists and empowered by female advocates and innovators in the communities where we work. And I fully expect that the people these policies are targeted to benefit will have a say in how these policies are shaped on the ground.

So this is a great opportunity to bring extensive benefits in areas of health, in energy, in economic growth, and in the ongoing effort to fight climate change. I'm very proud that EPA is part of this coalition that will work to bring these ambitions to life. I thank all of our partners, and I look forward to the work. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I want now to invite our very special and honored guests to come to the podium one at a time to deliver their remarks, because it's important that we stress the international character of this coalition from the very beginning, the global reach of it, and the commitment that each of the ministers brings. And I think the minister from Bangladesh will begin. (Applause.)

MINISTER MAHMUD: Honorable Secretary of State, Her Excellency Hillary Rodham Clinton, Honorable Environment Minister of Canada, Honorable Environment Minister of Sweden, Ambassador of Ghana, Honorable Environment Minister of Mexico, Administrator of UNEP Achim Steiner, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, good morning to you all.

Indeed, it is my great pleasure to be with you in this launching ceremony of Short-Lived Climate Forces Initiative in Washington, D.C. Bangladesh is extremely happy to be with this SLCF Initiative, to encourage and promote in foreign policy development an effective implementation of strategic actions in national, regional, and international level, with the aim of reducing the concentrations of short-lived climate forces that would potentially be delaying temperature increase in the short run, and would reduce air pollution, resulting in public health co-benefits.

In South Asian perspectives, harmful impacts of air pollution on human health also is a serious problem. The studies of recent UNEP and WMO indicated assessment of black carbon and tropospheric ozone reveals that the air pollution in South Asia cause more than 500,000 premature deaths annually. There are also negative impacts of air pollution on crop productivity, primarily due to high levels of tropospheric ozone, causing several millions of tons of reduced crop yield in South Asia annually. Moreover, there are negative impacts of black carbon and other anthropogenic emission on essential components of the regional climatic systems, such as monsoons, regional hydrological balance with implications of food security, and SLCF are driving increased melting of Himalayan glaciers, which are a major source of fresh water for millions of people in that region.

Distinguished delegates and participants, despite being one of the most vulnerable country in the world, with almost no contribution to the cause, Bangladesh is in its pursuit of greener growth as a route to sustainable development with socioeconomic and environmental benefit to a greater possible extent. Short-lived climate forces, indeed in Bangladesh, affecting negatively on the healths of the millions of people in Bangladesh.

I would like to share with you some of the initiatives taken by Bangladesh very recently. Almost two third of the gasoline-run cars, jeeps, minibuses, three-wheelers, have already been converted to cleaner fuel, CNG, over the last couple of years. More than 400,000 improved and efficient cookstoves have been distributed throughout the country, replacing conventional inefficient cookstoves with the support of NGOs and bilateral funding agencies. It is also important to note that a CDM project with primarily one million efficient cookstoves have recently got registration from CDM executive committee for getting into operation.

Another CDM project is being implemented for composting of municipal solid waste. Beside the project is underway with the government's own resource to design, develop, and implement a programmatic CDM portfolio consolidating urban solid waste of all city corporations, municipalities, districts, in a gradual phase.

The government has also taken policy decisions to replace traditional brick kiln by improved energy efficient technologies, such as hybrid Hoffman kiln, Jig Jag, et cetera. We're very thankful to U.S. Government because U.S. Government has put Bangladesh within the first well of countries for SSLED. And we are also – we have also joined the Clean Cookstove Initiatives, along with U.S. Government and others.

Distinguished delegates and participants, we feel the importance of sharing of relevant knowledge, experience, good practices, and success stories to address SLCF effectively in nationally, regionally, and internationally. I firmly believe that we will continue to put our collective effort to carry forward this initiative, through which SLCF will eventually be contained to a maximum possible level, along with other greenhouse gases. I hope our collective endeavor will significantly contribute to achieving global mitigation goals, as well as improving the air quality for better health of our citizens. Hope this SLCF initiative will be very instrumental for bringing co-benefits for millions of people around the globe.

Thanks to you all. (Applause.)

MINISTER KENT: Good morning. Bon jour. Secretary Clinton, Administrator Jackson, colleagues, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, this is truly a great day for the global environment and all who share it. Canada's delighted to be here for the launch of the framework for the climate and clean air coalition to reduce short-lived climate pollutants.

(In French.)

We applaud the initiative's practical approach to making near-term improvements in the environment and human health. This is a key complement to our action on greenhouse gases through ambitious national reductions and effective cooperation under the United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is also a critical step forward toward making progress on the fight against climate change.

I'm also particularly pleased today, as action on short-lived climate pollutants will have clear benefits for particularly vulnerable regions like the Canadian Arctic. The fragile arctic environment is susceptible to the impacts of short-lived climate pollutants, which may be partly responsible for the accelerated warming trend that we are recording there. Canada plans to contribute $3 million to the initiative directly, as part of a $10 million package of new projects to support initiatives that will reduce emissions on short-lived climate pollutants in developing countries and help build capacity to address them. These projects include direct support to address emissions of methane from landfill and the oil and gas sector, as well as the deployment of clean cookstoves to reduce black carbon pollution.

(In French.)

This is part of our historic contribution to fast start financing in support of climate action in developing countries. So in conclusion, Canada looks forward enthusiastically to the reaping of environmental benefits of this investment and the many other benefits to our world that global cooperation will bring. Thank you. Merci.

(Applause.)

SECRETARY ELVIRA: Dear ministers, distinguished friends, ladies and gentlemen, I first would like to thank the United States for hosting the launch of this important coalition. My special recognition to Mrs. Hillary Clinton for her leadership and support in raising the profile of this collaborative effort. I'm also grateful to all of you for being part of this event. Mexico shares the interest to strengthen the multilateral efforts to reduce the short-lived climate pollutants. International collaboration is crucial for achieving effective actions at a wider scale. Now, we have a high-level policy and results-oriented forum that will address short-lived climate pollutants. This coalition is a call for action to all countries willing to mitigate these pollutants through capacity-wielding technology, dissemination and transfer, and increased international collaboration.

Clean air and climate change policies in Mexico have followed an integrated approach with participation of federal, state, and municipal levels. Some of these achievements include 70 of the Mexican population is covered by air quality management programs (inaudible). While Mexican states are developing climate change planning instruments, next year there will be 200 municipalities with their own programs. As part of our national low emissions development strategy, we are developing a pilot project with the Global Environmental Facility to provide an integrated response to short-lived climate forces by promoting clean energy and energy efficiency.

Within this framework, Mexico aims to share experiences and jointly fund options to replicate effective models through South-South collaboration schemes. We are convinced these coalitions will be transformational at the technical, political, and financial levels and represents a groundbreaking opportunity to build a long-term sustainability through fast actions. I invite other countries and stakeholders to join us in this endeavor and contribute to a green growth and a more sustainable society. Thank you.

(Applause.)

MINISTER EK: Secretary Clinton, Ms. Jackson, honored colleagues, and listeners, representing Sweden, I'm extremely proud to stand here today as this coalition aims at improving air quality and health for millions of people around the world, improve food production, and slow climate change. The Arctic is particularly sensitive, and SLCP action could dramatically reduce warming in the region by about 0.7 degrees Celsius by 2040.

This coalition complements the work required to reduce emissions of long-lived climate gasses under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Only with a strong reduction of long-lived climate gasses we can halt climate change. But importantly, this initiative on short-lived climate pollutants demonstrates a new way of working. It's a bottom-up approach and a coalition for action, not for talking.

I want to emphasize that each country participating in this partnership will undertake action at home as well as abroad. The first meeting of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition will take place in Stockholm in April in connection with the 40th century – 40th anniversary – (laughter) – sorry, a bit ahead of myself there – the 40th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference on Environment, the first Global Earth Summit.

Ahead of that meeting, we will be working to expand the group of countries contributing to the coalition. Sweden will contribute to this with research, capacity building, and financial support. We will share our experience in implementation and building capacity in other countries based on our experience on legislation, information, and on working with different stakeholders.

Sweden is currently engaged in developing countries in project related to short-lived climate pollutants; e.g., in clean cook initiatives, methane reduction research, and capacity building. Therefore we particularly welcome the work by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, GACC, and look forward to future cooperation aiming to improve health, environment, and address gender inequalities in developing countries as well as in industrialized countries.


Thank you. (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR AGYEKUM: Good morning, everyone. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, honorable ministers, ladies and gentlemen, it's just as well that I have come to speak at the last on the list because I am representing my minister who unfortunately had not be able to join her colleagues. But she allowed me to extend to Secretary Clinton and all of you her very best wishes for a successful coalition meeting.

She has also asked me to make a very brief statement, and I'll do just that. At the very outset, Ghana would like to commend the Government of the United States of America for hosting this very important program and also the Government of Canada for hosting the meeting of the technical group that prepared the path leading to the launching of it today. Ghana has recognized the potential adverse impact of short-lived climate pollutants, especially the human health implications and impact on agricultural productivity.

Ghana aims at three broad objectives in addressing global warming and climate change challenges, namely: one, the development of effective adaptation mechanism; a low carbon growth path; and thirdly, an accelerated social development. The achievement of these broad objectives are anchored on seven building blocks of governance, coordination, capacity building, finance, research and knowledge management, international cooperation, communication, monitoring, and of course, evaluation.

Ghana notes with satisfaction that the broad objectives of our national climate change policy are very much in consonance with the principal principles of this partnership on SLCP. Ghana therefore looks forward to actively taking part in the programs and activities of the partnership and also remain committed to fulfilling our obligations under all international conventions and protocols on climate change.

That is the statement from my minister, and thank you for listening. (Applause.)

MR. STEINER: Madam Secretary, Lisa Jackson, administrator of EPA, honorable ministers, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen: Madam Secretary, you began your presentation by referring to Benjamin Franklin and his passion for science also, and I would like to briefly begin my presentation by paying tribute to the scientists who have enabled us to, in fact, come together here today. I know amongst as I have not seen yet is Professor Ramanathan but also Drew Shindell and others who have been with a team of international researchers, sometimes for years, trying to unravel the complexities of what is happening in our atmosphere and our planet, and being able to deliver us the insight that actually empowers us to act.

Benjamin Franklin actually once said that he wishes he would be around a hundred years later in order to enjoy the fruits of science and the understanding that humanity would have about how to increase agricultural production and human health. Well, here we are hundreds of years later, and indeed we are discovering how important science is to enable us to manage the footprint of humanity in the 21st century.

The initiative that is being launched here today, as you also referred to, Madam Secretary, is not an initiative to take attention away from some of the fundamental challenges we face in combating global warming. On the contrary, it is buying us back some time that we have already lost. And it is also framing an environmental sustainability agenda of the 21st century that does not allow us any longer to juxtaposition human health, human well-being, economic opportunity, development options, with environmental protection, environmental sustainability, and taking science seriously.

We live in an age where science is enabling us to unravel and comprehend the challenge we face as humanity in the 21st century. The initiative that we are launching here today is just one example of how – and I'm very pleased that as part of the United Nations we have also been able to bring a community of scientists together to speak to the global community in a way that addresses both the urgency to act on a pollutant but also to recognize the opportunity that it provides to millions of people across the planet. Avoiding over 2 million premature deaths from outdoor pollutants is no small thing. Trying to address the fact that we need to feed soon 9 billion people on this planet and how some of these pollutants affect our agricultural productivity speaks also to a fundamental concern about food security. And that is what I mean by an environmental agenda of the 21st century. It is not a choice between development or growth or employment or livelihood or environmental protection. In fact, our agenda of the 21st century is about maintaining, keeping, and expanding options for development in the future and for those many people, communities, and nations who do not even yet have the level and the quality of life, income, and income security that perhaps parts of the world have become used to.

I therefore want to thank you, Madam Secretary, for having us in this room with Benjamin Franklin's memory and also testimony here, because perhaps it is no coincidence that we are in this room, but I want to use this as a way towards a pay tribute to science, because in the United Nations environment program one of my objectives in the last years has been to shorten the time lag between where emerging science is opening our eyes and the policy arena is able to act. Today is a tribute to precisely that.


Thank you. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that is the perfect note to end on because it very clearly sets forth not only the challenge but the opportunity that we are grasping today with the beginning efforts on behalf of the coalition. I also wish to thank Todd Stern and his team, who have done such a terrific job against some quite difficult headwinds from time to time. And I want to thank Kris Balderston, whose team put together the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. I want to thank our scientists here at the State Department, who have been working on a range of issues including the work we're doing with the Arctic Council on black carbon and soot.

So it's an exciting moment and we cannot lose the energy and the passion and the commitment that we've already heard expressed here today. We have to move and move quickly now to follow up on what we have committed ourselves to. And I appreciate greatly the ending references to Benjamin Franklin because I do think it's important to keep in mind that it has been people like him and many in this room, who are the scientists and the researchers who have taught us more about what is possible and showed the way. And now it is up to all of us to make that journey together.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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